Looking For Classic British Films

I saw a British film on Turner Classic Movies the other day and it got me thinking. Is there a top 100 list of the best British made films? What are your suggestions of British films from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, etc. that show British life. I especially like films that show family life, more comedy and light-hearted fare than mystery/horror/suspense, but include them also for others who might be interested. For instance, Meet Me in Saint Louis and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn show slices of American family life in times past; any British films of that type? Thanks.

Off the top of my head:

Oh Mr Porter (starring Will Hay)
Turned out nice again (George Formby)
Sing As we go (Gracie Fields)
Kind Hearts and Coronets (remarkable performance by Alec Guinness as several members of the same family)
the Ladykillers (Alec Guinness again)
Two way stretch (peter Sellers and some of the best British comedy actors or the time)
Passport to Pimlico
Waterloo Road (not a comedy, but stars John Mills)

I grew up watching British comedy films on TV, as they were the staple fare of afternoon telly. As they were mostly in black and white, they don’t get shown all that often these days, which is sad. Will Hay was a particular favourite of mine.

Hope this list helps.

A modern classic:
‘Secrets and Lies’: terrible title for a powerful family drama. Like the best of Eugene O’Neil, it gets a little dark, but looks at ordinary people and the drama of ordinary lives without blinking, it educates, uplifts and humanizes: it’s on my top 5 list.

And don’t worry: the ending is happy, there’s no on screen sex or violence.

It even has a strong pro-life vibe, in as much as a child who could have been aborted makes life better for her birth family, once they all come to terms with the circumstances of her conception and birth.

My goodness! I’m so glad that I’m not the only one to have seen this film (I’m adopted so that is the first reason why I was interested). Yes, it was a good film, and definitely highlights dysfunctionality. It is how I felt when I met my biological mother, her life (and those of her children) are definitely not as nice as my life has been.

Black and white movies

Hobson’s Choice, John Mills, funny.heart warming

Brief Encounter,

Yield to the Night, drama, Diana Dors, fab.

Margaret Rutherfords Miss Marples

This Happy Breed

Whiskey Galore

A matter of life and death

Was it Gaslight? That movie rocks. :smiley:

Don’t forget Sir Alfred Hitchcock started his career making films in England before the war (WW2). Many of those are considered classics…

I keep thinking of all those war movies - Mrs Miniver, Goodbye Mr Chips (covers several wars), In Which We Serve and so on.

Perhaps not exactly what you’re after, but then WW2 was of course THE defining event for Brits in the '40s and its impact continued well into the '50s.

A Matter of Life and Death

A Canterbury Tale

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

Brighton Rock (from the book by Grahame Greene) this has one of the most genuinely nasty endings I’ve ever seen -but no blood or gore or any violence is used to get that effect.


The Wicker Man (the original not that awful recent remake)

I think those were actually American films. which is ironic since most Englishmen of that generation regard “Mrs Miniver” as defining English character.

Dunno how British it really is, but it’s set in Wales, so:

‘Corn is Green’, the orginal version with Bette Davis. Katherine Hepburns was good too, just not as.

Oh, and W. Sommerset Maughm’s
‘Of Human Bondage’: a lot of truth about realationships there. Also stars Bette.

And if you don’t know Bette from that early part of her carreer when she was a true beauty, you really should.

Have you seen the original ‘Pride and Prejucice’ with Lawrence Olivier…

I Know Where I’m Going is a wonderful romantic film starring Wendy Hiller.

The Third Man is considered the best British Film ever by many critics.

The Red Shoes is a very lovely, but kind of odd movie.

Alfie (the one with Michael Caine) is a classic and has a scene that shows the reality of abortion very strongly

This Sporting Life has a superb performance by Richard Harris

As for the Lawrence Olivier Pride and Prejudice - the less said the better. They totally ruined the story.

If you can see the British version of Gaslight, try to do so. It’s marvelous.

And even though these were mini-series and not really movies, I was very impressed by the BBC’s versions of North and South and Bleak House.

You’d need something to subvert too cosy a world view - films like Peeping Tom, A Taste Of Honey, The L-Shaped Room, Up The Junction, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Spring And Port Wine, Cathy Come Home (originally a TV drama), Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Darling, Billy Liar, Blow Up, If …, Clockwork Orange.

It isn’t TOO classic but the TV series Brideshead Revisited is awesome.

All pretty good movies - I’d say Clockwork Orange is the standout one for me though.

many of his most remembered American films he did earlier in England with an English cast such as the Man who Knew too Much.

Peeping Tom is creeepy! It ruined Michael Powell’s career when it came out, but it’s considered a classic now.

Yeah it sadly did stuff up his career - a sad shame as he was one of Britain’s most talented film makers. It is of course creepy considering the central character’s motivations but the Britain of that time was not ready for such a movie.

You’re very correct. HItch did end up remaking this one with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day…Many don’t realize his career actually goes back to silent films…

I’m surprised no one’s mentioned the Carry-on films! Witty, sophisticated, huge budgets, sparkling dialogue… oh wait…

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